It seems like there are stages in my life when everywhere I go, people are always telling me, “Enjoy your kids! It goes so fast!”
**Important note before reading on!**
If you have ever said this to me, please don’t think the following constitutes me scolding you.
It’s just something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and I think it’s important enough to warrant public reflection.
Before, it seemed like these admonitions were always clumped around a time when I was griping a lot. The odd thing about the recent rash of “enjoy it”’s is that I really have been enjoying my kids—laughing at their funny moments, sharing the silly ones. The two most recent times, it came from complete strangers: an old man in the Aldi parking lot, when I was trying to get the little ones to hold my hands to walk inside, and the cashier at Penney’s, who didn’t even see my kids, because Christian and I were alone.
I’m always conflicted when someone expresses this sentiment. On the one hand, I understand exactly where they’re coming from. Those who are farther along in the parenting journey have the perspective to know it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. You don’t want to wish away the beauty of the present.
But on the other hand, it’s really easy to sentimentalize the past, to downplay or dismiss its troubles and glorify its virtues. Think about the deliberate amnesia we impose upon ourselves to make it psychologically possible to go through pregnancy again. Let’s be frank: pregnancy is not for the faint of heart! Especially the last six weeks. (Want to hazard a guess how far out I am?) Then there’s the haze of no sleep and adjusting to a new, adorable little tyrant ruling your life, which is soon enough followed by toilet training and tantrums.
Of course, that’s not the whole story. At almost all times, the moments of grace and wonder outweigh the trials. Sometimes we need to be smacked upside the head with a reminder: “Dude! Focusing on the wrong thing here!”
Yet you have to be careful not to belittle a person’s struggles. We all think whatever stage we’re dealing with is the worst. I hear the “enjoy it” sentiment most often from parents of teenagers. I can only speak from a standpoint of reason, not experience, but I just don’t buy that teen angst is any more punishing on a parent than round-the-clock diapering, toddler willfulness and the general high-maintenance of teaching a small person every single skill they have to know in order to function as a human being, from self-care to self-control. Parents of teens may take issue with me, but I think the stages are just different, not more or less intensive. Just as there are trials and rewards in the young years, so are there trials and rewards in the teen years—and every other stage. Parents of ten-year-olds or adolescents or grown kids with kids of their own—each have concerns about their children unique to that stage.
Now, no one who says, “Enjoy it! It goes so fast!” means to belittle the struggles faced by parents of young children. But on the receiving end, it often feels as if we’re not allowed to get angry or frustrated. Parenthood, as all of life, is roses with thorns. You can’t have one without the other, and the best way to support each other through this journey is to affirm both the good parts and the bad.
What do you think? More experienced parents, am I missing something? Fellow young-ie’s, do these kinds of statements ever bother you? Or am I overthinking the whole topic?